Matt Evans: The Real Outrage Is That You’re Still Watching the NFL


San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick stands on the field before their NFL pre-season football game against the Denver Broncos in San Francisco, California, U.S. August 8, 2013. REUTERS/Stephen Lam/File Photo

Everyone is talking about that football player that decided to make a political statement about something related to race relations, I guess. I don’t know what is normal or expected in NFL games, so I guess I don’t have an informed opinion.

The main sport I follow is Formula 1 motor racing. The drivers come from many different countries, and the events are held in many different countries. The exciting news for the 2016 season is that we finally have an American team in Formula 1 again! The drivers are from France and Mexico, but the team is American.

Prior to the start of each Formula 1 race, the national anthem of the host country is played. The drivers all stand at attention. At the end of the race, the national anthem of the winning driver is played, while the first, second, and third place drivers stand at attention on the podium, with their hats removed. The podium ceremony is not a solemn affair – drivers often wave, smile, and thumbs-up to fans while the anthems play, although they are more often than not somber and reserved.

So, I guess that when I think about well paid, professional athletes, I am used to a certain amount of pageantry, good behavior, and reverence for national anthems.

So what’s my take on this NFL player?

Well, I understand the people who are angry over it, but I think that anger reflects a galactic lack of context.

If not observing some expected degree of reverence during the anthem was the biggest behavioral defect in the NFL, that would be fabulous. The real issue in the NFL is the pervasive lack of decency shown by the players in the league.

Let’s talk about the NFL’s problem with crime. I would assert that part of behaving patriotically is not getting arrested for murder, assault, or domestic violence. The NFL has a problem with that.

Now, various statisticians will try and make this issue disappear by saying that the crime rates for NFL players aren’t as high as the national average for men in the 18-34 year old age bracket—the demographic bracket that describes most NFL players.

However, most NFL players are fantastically wealthy. The average NFL salary is 1.9 million dollars per year. They are all in “the one percent”. If you look at NFL crime rates adjusted for their wealth bracket, then of course, the NFL is a total disaster compared to “wealthy America”, especially when it comes to violent crime, like domestic violence.

(Normalizing against income is relevant, because many leftists will tell you that crime in America is primarily a function of poverty)

There are, of course, lots of great NFL players, who can credibly be thought of as role models for young Americans.

There are also lots of not-so-great NFL players. I don’t follow the NFL, and I only occasionally see little excerpts of NFL coverage on TV. When I watch, what jumps off the screen at me is how many of the players look like gang members.

So, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when NFL players have off-field conduct that is more fitting of gang members than the general public.

Is there a problem with professional athletes in the US across the board?

Perhaps. This link shows the various crime rates of the NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB.

What we observe is that the arrest rates for the NFL and NBA are exceptionally high – about five times what we see for MLB, and about 10 times what we see for NHL.

Let’s continue with the crimes vs. salary metric. The below salary data comes from, which it says comes from Forbes.


What we observe is that the NBA has the highest salary, and the 2nd highest problem with crime. The MLB has the second highest salary, but only a quarter of the NFL’s crime rate. The NHL salary average is about 25% higher than the NFL average, but the NHL has only 7% of the crime problem that the NFL has.

Why are NHL and MLB so much better behaved than NBA and NFL?

Blame Canada?

Actually, I have no idea, but I couldn’t help but observe that MLB and NHL both have Canadian participation, whereas NFL and NBA do not, last time I checked. Maybe Canadians make Americans behave better?

One other question you might ask – do certain NFL teams have more legal trouble than others, over time? Yes. In fact, the NFL team with the highest multi-year crime rate is none other than the Minnesota Vikings.

Crime data consists of at least two factors – proclivity to commit crime, and police response in the areas where the players spend most of their time. So, it may be that the Minnesota Vikings run their club in such a way that they cultivate rich criminals or it may be that the police in Minnesota don’t mind arresting their NFL players. Or both.

So, in my mind, the nation’s anger with the football player over the anthem is misplaced. The much bigger issue is that the NFL celebrates and perpetuates gang culture, and has unleashed a bunch of rich, violent criminals on American television, and is normalizing these people as role models for America.

The biggest issue of all is that most Americans are glad to pay for the privilege. I guess that tickets to an NFL game are pretty expensive – $70 per seat is the figure that sticks in my mind. The

Superbowl is always the most watched TV event every year, and the Superbowl commercials are some of the most expensive TV airtime all year long.

It’s difficult to reconcile the idea of “Minnesota Nice” with the Minnesota Vikings leading the nation in NFL player arrest rates. It is largely Minnesotans who are going to Vikings games, so the Minnesota Nice idea doesn’t go so far as to expect the home team to be well behaved off the field.

The NFL can demand better behavior – on and off the field – from its players. And it will do so, if the fans demand it. It could mandate military haircuts and no visible tattoos, if that was the image it wanted to cultivate. Which it will do – if the fans demand it.

I’ve already decided that the NFL doesn’t get my money or my eyeballs. You could decide that too, if you think the NFL promotes players that don’t demonstrate the values you want in front of your children and your neighbors.